The coming-of-age feels like a warm hug and a punch to the stomach 


Peccadillo Pictures’ new sapphic film starts with its main character Jamie smoking moodily. It’s the perfect shot of teenage angst and rebellion. But this is no ordinary coming-of-age film. 

Set in 1992, You Can Live Forever is centred around 17-year-old Jamie (Anwen O’Driscoll) who is forced to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother has a breakdown. The catch? They’re part of a very devout Jehovah’s Witness community. However, things don’t seem so bad once Jamie meets Marike (June Laporte) – the perfect Witness girl. And the object of Jamie’s desires. 

Written and directed by award-winning director Mark Slutsky and Sarah Watts, the film perfectly captures the burning feeling of crushing hard on a friend. With the added bonus of religious shame, this film has more sexual tension than we could cope with. Full of lingering stares while praying over the dinner table and small, knowing smiles between Jamie and Marike, watching this film feels like having a teenage crush for the first time again. 

At the heart of this film are the phenomenal performances from Anwen O’Driscoll, who played Taylor Matheson in Burden Of Truth, and June Laporte who starred in Hulu’s The Dropout. Their friendship-turned-flirtationship within the film feels real and achingly raw. Combined with Marike trying to navigate her religion and her feelings, we feel like we know these characters intimately. 

Sarah Watts based this film on her own life growing up gay in a Jehovah’s Witness community in a small town. “As a teenager, I was eager to see a story with a character who even remotely resembled me on the movie screen. But I was always disappointed. When there were lesbian characters they were inevitably used as plot points and usually died tragic deaths,” she said. “When I met Mark and explained my upbringing to him, he immediately understood my point of view. For years, we worked together to create a film that could honour my own background and the experiences of other young people in a similar predicament. You Can Live Forever is the movie I always wanted to see as a teenager.”

Given that being queer is considered “immoral” by the Jehovah’s Witness community, Sarah was exiled from the community and lost contact with her family. You can feel the grief and loss that Sarah put into this film from her own experiences. 

There is something nostalgic about watching this film (even if you didn’t grow up in Canada in the 90s). With a soundtrack of The Cure and the constant stream of cigarette smoke, there is something deeply familiar about Anwen’s portrayal of Jamie. For anyone who has felt outcasted before, Jamie might just become your new favourite comfort character. 

Director Mark Slutsky described the film as being “a powerful story about being a stranger in a strange land, about first love, about blind faith, and about how far we are willing to go to find happiness.”

You can watch You Can Live Forever in selected cinemas on 16 June or Peccadillo on Demand, Curzon Home Cinema, Apple TV, Amazon UK, BFI Player and Google Play. 

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